COVINGTON, Ky. — With temperatures dropping, and the risk for people experiencing homelessness growing, the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky has begun the process of opening its cold shelter for the winter months.
Executive Director Kim Webb said their facility at 634 Scott Blvd. shelters those who probably aren’t sheltering anywhere else -- offering not only a bed, shower, and food, but compassion and dignity as well.
But because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact, Webb said the shelter expects to see an increase of people needing services this year.
“A job loss, something catastrophic happens, you get sick, lose a car -- all those things contribute to the downward spiral,” she said. “For many folks in the community, that’s what is starting to happen.”
The pandemic also presents a challenge unique from years past: following CDC guidelines and social distancing means dropping the number of available shelter beds from 32 to 24.
“We’re going to have to get to a point where we’re working to keep people comfortable staying outside,” Webb said. “And that’s not a good feeling. It’s what we as a community have to face.”
Sam Landis of Maslow’s Army said across the river, their organization focuses on daytime services during the cold months. In Covington, Webb said the pandemic has brought to light a community issue.
“There’s always going to be the next person which isn’t going to get a bed,” Webb said. “That’s where the community partners, community leaders are really starting to have a dialogue and look at this, say, ‘How do we step up and help? How do we do this?’”
Webb said her focus is on this cold winter season, their last in their current space which was never designed to be shelter. But she adds it’s hard not to think about their future home, which is set to triple their current occupancy.
The blueprints show 68 beds, an on-site medical room through a partnership with St. Elizabeth and a daytime navigation center to bring resources all under one roof. The 30-year lease they signed with Kenton County ensures that the shelter has a more permanent home come fall 2021.
“We don’t have to worry about where we’re going to be. No longer are we in transitional housing. We’re not homeless. We actually have a home we can build into, continue to meet the needs. It’s incredible,” Webb said.
She said the city of Covington has been great to work with, putting the ability to have a temporary use of a shelter or temporary lodging facility into the neighborhood development code.
“That’s a win on this side of the river for elevating homelessness, and talking and having that conversation," she said. "The hope is that other cities and counties in Northern Kentucky start taking a look at this."
And for this last winter in their current home, they’re hoping for community support in order to stop the cycle of homelessness and help those in need.
“This is the first time we’ve had everyone at the table saying, ‘Alright, we can do better here.’ If we all put our heads together, we’ll find some resources to make it happen.”
To donate time or resources to the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky, visit their website here.